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Full text of "A letter on the water front improvement addressed to the Hon. James Van Ness, Mayor of San Francisco"












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LETTER 



WATER FRONT IMPROVEMENT, 



ADDRESSED TO THE 



HON. JAMES VAN NESS, 



MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO. 



By J. H. PURKITT. 



SAN FRANCISCO: 

WHITTON, TOWNE & CO., PRINTERS, EXCELSIOR JOB OFFICE, 

No. 151 Clay Street, third door below Montgomery. 

1856. 



F 



71028 



LETTEE 



Dear Sir : 

As the chief executive officer of the commercial metropolis of 
the Pacific, I respectfully ask your attention to a subject of great 
magnitude and importance to the present and future of the city 
of San Francisco. Its importance must be my apology for ad- 
dressing you in this public manner. And in doing so, allow me 
to say, that I have no personal object to accomplish ; no selfish 
consideration induces my present action. 

In advocating the measure to which your attention is called, 
1 am alike indifferent to public praise or public censure. I am 
animated by the single desire of contributing, to the extent of 
my ability, to the prosperity of the City, the enlargment of its 
shipping and commercial interests, to the development of its re- 
sources, and the adoption of all such wise and beneficent meas- 
ures as will best promote the public good. 

IMPORTANCE OF THE MEASURE. 

It is well known to those who have given the subject the 
slightest consideration, that the day is not distant, if it have not 
already arrived, when effective measures must be taken to build 
or cause to be built a stone wall or Bulkhead along the line of 
the present city front. Its necessity will be made to appear as 
I proceed. But let me hope that no citizen will be afraid of 
this measure, or brand its originators with reproachful or igno- 
minious epithets. That it will encounter opposition, may be 
reasonably anticipated ; for what great public improvement ever 
yet escaped it. The opposition may be violent and obstinate ; 
but that matters not, provided it be based on reason and intelli- 
gence. It is hoped, whatever else may be said against it, that 
it will not be regarded as only another measure of profligacy 
and plunder, or stigmatised as the offspring of a corrupt combi- 
nation of friends. It is neither the one nor the other. It is a 



measure, as 1 hope to show, which ought to rally to its support 
every real friend of the City. In every view which can be taken 
of the true interest of the City, this measure must be regarded 
as of no other than first rate importance. To our commerce, to 
our agriculture, to our manufactures, to all our material and to 
all our social interests, to our prosperity as a community, to the 
preservation of capital invested in water lot property, and to 
the promotion of the future glory and prosperity of this City, — 
to all alike and equally, the measure under contemplation is de- 
serving of the most effective encouragement and support. No 
one can deny the abstract necessity and importance of the 
measure. I trust that every one will concur with me in the po- 
sition, that nothing is calculated to conduce more to the general 
prosperity and welfare of this City and State, than the proposed 
improvement of the harbor, and the increased facilitation of all 
its ways and means of commercial operations. 



THE HARBOR. 



The rapid rise of the port of San Francisco to its present con- 
sequence, though, no doubt, principally owing, like that of the 
City itself, to the astonishing increase of population in the ex- 
tensive tract of country of which it is the grand emporium, is 
also, in part, owing to the facilities which have been given to 
navigation and commerce by the construction of wharves. The 
harbor is generally regarded as one of the most commodious 
in the world, with a depth of water sufficient to float ships of the 
greatest burden, and a convenient bottom for anchorage. It 
is of easy access, with an entrance not so wide as to prevent its 
being easily barred and defended whenever occasion requires, 
and yet of sufficient extent to admit the entrance or departure 
of the largest ships without danger or. difficulty. It is not sub- 
ject to overflow, and is so formed that vessels are sheltered from 
the winds by the high mountains which surround it. The only 
danger to the shipping, at any time, is from the south-east 
winds, and then only, when, as is sometimes the case, large 
numbers of vessels are lying side by side. 

BENEFITS OF A GOOD PORT ILLUSTRATED. 

Nature having given us a safe and commodious harbor, it is 
for the hand of art to make the port commensurate with the 
requirements of a great commercial metropolis. We are ad- 



mirably situated, within a short distance of the sea, and in the 
focal centre of a rich and fertile country. The many advantages 
enjoyed by this City as a trading and commercial port, will 
always secure for us a large share of the shipping interest of the 
world. The very magnitude of this shipping interest will tend 
greatly to the increase of our population. And the greater a city 
becomes, the greater is the scope she affords for the exercise of 
every talent and acquirement, and for the gratification of every 
taste and desire : and the more powerful, consequently, are the 
motives by which she attracts all sorts of individuals, whether 
aspiring or careless, industrious or idle, grave or gay, virtuous or 
profligate. How far this greatness may be promoted or defeat- 
ed, hastened or retarded, by the good or bad condition of our 
port, is a matter worthy of consideration. That Boston, London, 
and Liverpool owe much of their material greatness to their ex- 
cellent system of wharves and docks, does not admit of a doubt. 
Boston has ninety-eight wharves, many of which are lined with 
large and splendid stores. The principal are India Wharf, 
which is nine hundred and eighty feet long, and from two hun- 
dred and forty-six to two hundred and eighty feet wide, in the 
middle of which is an extensive row of stores four stories high. 
Central Wharf is one thousand three hundred and seventy-nine 
feet long and one hundred and fifty feet wide. In the centre is 
a fine range of stores and warehouses. Long Wharf is eighteen 
hundred feet long and two hundred wide, on which are seventy- 
six spacious warehouses. A well of fresh water, ninety feet 
deep, in the centre of this wharf, extensively supplies the ship- 
ping with pure and wholesome water. Other wharves are of 
great extent, and well furnished with stores and warehouses. 
The tonnage of the port is more than 500,000, which is exceeded 
by no other port in the United States but that of New York. 
The foreign imports are more than $30,000,000 annually, and 
the exports about $25,000,000, and yet the balance of trade is 
greatly in favor of the City. The amount of trade coastwise is 
five or six times as much as the foreign trade. The wharves are 
all owned by individuals or incorporated companies, and are 
probably better and more substantial and costly structures than 
any other wharves in the Unithd States. They return a greater 
percentage on the capital invested than our own wharves, and pay 
annually a large revenue from taxation into the city treasury. 
They are the pride and glory of the port, and are perpetual mon- 



6 



uments of the energy, enterprise and public spirit of the merchants 
of Boston. 

The port of London extends a distance of about six miles and 
a half, and was for a long time insufficient for the proper accom- 
modation of the shipping to that city. The West India Docks, 
the largest belonging to the port, comprise about two hundred 
and ninety-five acres, one-fourth part of which is covered 
with water, the rest being occupied with quays and warehouses, 
the latter of great magnitude and furnished with every conve- 
nience. They afford sufficient accommodation for five hundred 
large merchantmen. The London Docks cover about one hun- 
dred acres of ground, of which nearly a third is water. The 
East India Docks have a water area of thirty acres, and their 
great depth (thirty feet) enables them to accommodate vessels 
of very large size. The Commercial Docks cover forty-nine acres, 
forty of which are water. The St. Katherine Docks enclose 
twenty-four acres, of which eleven and a half are water. The 
spacious docks formed by the Victoria Dock Company on the 
western portion of Plaistow Marshes, near Blackwell, were pub- 
licly opened Nov. 26th, 1855, for the reception of shipping. 
The principal basin in the centre is very nearly one hundred 
acres of water, with five jetties on the north side, each five 
hundred and fifty feet in length, on which are built substan- 
tial warehouses for the stowage of goods, five hundred feet 
long by eighty broad. Connected with this dock is a tidal basin 
containing upwards of sixteen acres, the depth of which varies 
from twenty-seven feet four inches to twenty-five feet eight 
inches. The river frontage of the inner basin is one mile in 
length. The warehouses, which are on a very extensive scale, 
are built along the dock-quays, so that goods are loaded and 
unloaded with the greatest possible facility. These docks have 
all been constructed, at a vast expense, by joint stock companies, 
and though on the whole they have been profitable concerns, 
yet they have redounded infinitely more to the advantage of the 
port than to that of their projectors. 

The rapid rise of the port of Liverpool to its present conse- 
quence, is owing in great part to the facilities that have been 
given to navigation and commerce by the construction of wet 
and dry docks. They constitute, indeed, the great glory of the 
town. The first wet dock in the British Empire was opened 
here in 1708; a second, about half a century afterwards, and 



since that period many more have been constructed on a very 
magnificent scale, and furnished with all sorts of conveniences, 
so that the aggregate area of those now in use amounts to above 
one hundred ninety-five acres, and the quay space for loading 
and unloading is upwards of fourteen miles in length. All 
these works are defended on the side next the river by a strong 
sea wall very nearly four miles in length. All precautions are 
taken to prevent the accumulation of mud in the docks, by the 
use of steam dredging machines. 

Though Liverpool is now a port of such paramount impor- 
tance, yet when the first dock was opened in 1708, the town was 
correctly described as " the little creek of Liverpool." It had a 
population of only 8000 inhabitants, and eighty four ships of 
the burden of 5789 tons! The total amount of dock room now 
possessed by her is about 800,000 square yards, with a length of 
quay space of 25,000 lineal yards. 

Though Boston, London and Liverpool have expended mil- 
lions of dollars for the construction of wharves and docks, does 
any one doubt — can he do so — that it has been a wise and judi- 
tious expenditure? By affording superior facilities for naviga- 
tion and commerce, they have accumulated wealth and popula- 
tion to an unprecedented degree, and exhibited an enterprise, 
sagacity and perseverance worthy the highest commendation 
and respect. If like causes produce like effects, may we not 
anticipate, from our geographical position, that when we shall 
have exhibited a like sagacity, it will be rewarded with similar, 
if not superior results? At Havre, the docks are the principal 
structures of importance, having cost immense sums, and are 
justly the pride of its citizens. Indeed, there is not a city in 
Europe, possessing navigation, which has not found it necessary 
to make provision for the proper convenience and protection of 
its shipping. 

The port of San Francisco forms no exception, in this respect, 
to the general experience of the world, as to the necessity of like 
improvements here. Some idea of the extent of the proposed 
improvement may be formed from the following statement, by 
Mr. C. F. Sinot, a gentleman who has been engaged for the last 
four months in making a survey of the harbor, and who has, by 
request, kindly furnished me with an outline of the kind of 
work necessary to be done in order to meet the exigencies of 
the case. 



ENGINEER. 

As a desire will naturally be felt to know something of Mr. 
Sinot's antecedents, with a view of judging of his qualifications, 
I will state that he had a high reputation in France as a 
scientific, able and energetic engineer. He graduated at the 
Ecol^ Polythecnique in 1821, and was afterwards appointed 
engineer in the corps of Roads and Bridges. He also acted 
as principal engineer on the Canal de L'our, at Paris. On the 
completion of this great work he became engineer-in-chief of 
the general Drainage Company of France, and subsequently the 
directing engineer of the Rhone embankment, at Lyons, a work 
of such magnitude, and executed with such ability and dispatch 
as to appear prodigious to those acquainted with the difficulties 
which had to be encountered. The entire length of the embank- 
ment was twelve miles, with a width at base of sixty-three feet, 
and a mean height of seventeen feet. The total cost of the 
work was 5,500,000 francs. He was also the projector of two 
railways which have been constructed, one from Bordeaux to 
Cette, and one from Bordeaux to Bayonne. Besides these great 
undertakings, he is the author of several scientific and practical 
works on engineering and architecture. Having said thus much 
of Mr. Sinot, as an engineer, I will now proceed to give his 

DESCRIPTION OF PLAN. 

The plan submitted by Mr. Sinot consists — 

First, of a wall of hammer-dressed granite ten feet in thick- 
ness at the top and fifteen feet in height, having footings at the 
back of nine inches in every three feet of height, so that the 
thickness at the level of the foundation, or seven inches below 
the very lowest tide, will be fourteen feet six inches, including a 
batten on the face of the wall of one foot six inches. 

Second — The foundation wall to consist of courses of con- 
crete blocks four feet six inches in height, having a width of 
sixteen to eighteen feet, or an average width of seventeen feet. 
This foundation wall should be constructed of cubes of con- 
crete, composed of stone, taken either from Telegraph Hill or 
from one of the islands in the bay, bound together by a liquid 
cement of mineral pitch poured into the interstices in the same 
manner as grouting. This substance exists in large quantities 
on the sea coast near Santa Barbara, and is decidedly superior 



to any other material which can be employed, not. only on ac- 
count of its cheapness, but also on account of its advantages 
over hydraulic mortar, which has been found, of late years, to 
become decomposed when employed in submarine works. The 
top of the foundations should be fifteen feet below the zero of 
the city grades, and about seven inches below the very lowest 
tides. 

The line of the proposed sea-wall should commence at a point 
forming the north-east corner of Front and Vallejo streets ; from 
thence running in a south-easterly direction until it meets the 
east line of East street, intersecting the south line of Washing- 
ton street; thence following the east line of East street until it 
intersects the south line of Folsom street, forming, on its entire 
length of about 4,500 feet, one perfectly straight line from Folsom 
street to the north-east corner of Front and Vallejo streets. The 
object of proposing this line is in order to avoid the sharp angles 
which now exist in the established city front, which, forming an 
obstacle to the free movement of the sands and other deposits 
during the ebb and flood tides, cause a setting up of the port 
at these points against which it is necessary carefully to guard. 

In order to construct the works along this line, it will be nec- 
essary for the parties to purchase from the present owners some 
property bounded by Davis and Vallejo streets ; likewise some 
lots bounded by Jackson, the city water front, and Pacific streets, 
and also an angular portion of a lot situated at the south-west 
corner of Pacific and Drumm streets. 

CITY SEWERAGE. 

Along the east line of East street and its prolongation until 
it intersects the east line of Front street, thence along the east 
line of Front street to the northern line of Greenwich street, there 
should be constructed an arched drain, in masonry, ten feet wide 
and six feet six inches from invert to suffit of arch. The foun- 
dations should have a thickness of three feet six inches, and be. 
supported on a flooring of two layers of three inch plank laid on 
piles. Into this drain all the city sewers might discharge, and 
the refuse be carried off by means of a head of water of six feet 
eight inches, obtained by a floating basin formed by the prolong- 
ation of the east line of East street, to its intersection with the 
southern line of Harrison street. 

The tide gates of this basin should be constructed so that the 



10 

water, as the tide sets in, will open them, and as it lowers, will 
shut them. The water thus enclosed will only find an outlet 
through an aperture constructed at the entrance of the discharge 
drain, having a height of two feet, while the bottom of it will 
be placed on a level with the lowest low water. There will be, 
therefore, an almost continual flow of water through this drain, 
increasing in velocity as the tide rises and consecmently dimin- 
ishing as it lowers. The refuse from this drain being deposited 
at one point, instead of at several, can, from time to time, be 
cleared away by a dredging machine, and thus save the harbor 
from ever being obstructed thereby. 



Instead, however, of constructing the foundation wall with 
cubes of concrete, composed of stone and mineral pitch, piles 
may be employed by which a considerable saving can be effected. 
In this case it will be necessary to establish the fact very tho- 
roughly, that worms do not injure them below water mark. The 
piles should be well and firmly driven, and placed in a zigzag 
manner, three feet from centre to centre. Under the centre of 
gravity of the wall three rows of piles should be driven close 
together so as to form a solid barrier. At a point four feet 
below the bottom of the bay, the piles should be sawed off, and 
a substantial grillage work of timber should be built thereon for 
the reception of the superstructure. 

ITS NECESSITY. 

Such is the plan submitted to me by Mr. Sinot, for the per- 
manent improvement of the water front of the city. That there 
is a necessity — a pressing necessity — for the construction of this 
Bulkhead around the city front, cannot be doubted by any one 
who has given the subject a moment's consideration. On this 
subject the Herald holds the following language : " The dilapi- 
dated condition of the lower part of the city is known to every 
dweller within the corporation limits. Man-traps everywhere 
abound, and a general caving in cannot by any means be re- 
garded as an impossibility. The worms have hastened the work 
of destruction. The piles in every part of the city which form- 
erly was under water, have been completely honey-combed by 
these indefatigable insects, and so extensive has been the work 
of destruction, that it is a wonder that a general caving in has 



II 



not occurred before now. To pile, cap and plank the lower part 
of the city anew, would cost a million and a half of dollars. It 
is absurd to suppose that the owners of water lots, so long as 
the city front is open, and there is no impediment to prevent the 
continual rolling down of the dirt, accelerated by the action of 
the tides, will to any extent commence the work of filling in, for 
it is by no means certain that the dirt with which a lot is filled 
in will remain in the position in which it was originally placed. 
The owner of a water lot who commences the work of filling in, 
can have no guarantee that he is not improving his neighbor's 
lot and not his own. Till that part of the city which now stands 
on piles is filled in, we will have to pay large amounts annually 
for repairing the streets, and a general filling in cannot be com- 
menced till a substantial Stone Bulkhead is built around the 
city water front. If things are allowed to remain in their pre- 
sent position, we will have to pay in the space of five or six 
years a larger sum for piling, capping and planking, than would 
be required for the construction of a Bulkhead, and at the end 
of that time, and after the expenditure of millions of dollars, be 
no better off than we are at present. There are, however, other 
and equally important reasons for the construction of a substan- 
tial Bulkhead. It is well known to every merchant in the city, 
that the harbor is being gradually filled by the avalanche of dirt 
which is being constantly rolled down from the more elevated 
portions of the city, and if some means be not adopted to check 
it, we may very soon find that the channel is on the other side 
of Goat Island." 

FORMER DIFFICULTIES. 

The necessity for this Bulkhead is quite as urgent for the 
preservation of the city front and the perpetuity of our city, as 
the great commercial metropolis of the Pacific, as it was that 
the present wharves should ever have been built. All ves- 
sels that entered our harbor in the years 1849 and 1850, were 
compelled to anchor in the stream and to discharge their cargoes 
by means of lighters, at a cost of from four to six dollars per ton, 
and at a vast expenditure of time and labor. 

The "Saratoga," which came to this port in the summer of 1850, 
was an eighteen hundred ton ship, and was one of the largest — 
if not the largest — merchant ship which, up to that time, had 
ever entered the harbor. She was occupied over four months in 



12 



discharging her cargo, and it was ascertained that the cost of 
landing her goods upon the shore, according to the method then 
in use, was from fifty to seventy-five per cent, higher than after 
the establishment of the wharves. All bills of lading, at that 
period, were contracts to deliver goods at the ship's tackles, and 
not as now upon the wharves of San Francisco. Lighters could 
reach the ship only with a favorable tide, except with very great 
difficulty, never making more than two trips in twenty-four 
hours, and frequently only one, and none at all when the wind 
blew strongly, as it usually does during the summer months. 
How forcibly does this remind one of the old-fashioned modes 
of transportation and travel by the stage coach, the pack saddle, 
and the long, lumbering wagon. 

THE WHARFAGE SYSTEM. 

At the period of which I am speaking, the cost of lightering 
goods from the ship as she lay at anchor in the stream, to the 
shore, and thence to Sacramento, was equal to the entire freight 
from the Atlantic ports to Sacramento direct. Hence it became 
a grave question in the minds of thoughtful men, whether this 
city could successfully maintain her position as a rival of the 
"City of the Plains." It was certain that she could not, if ener- 
getic measures had not been adopted to reduce the enormous 
expenses at this port. There was but one mode by which this 
could be done, and that was to build wharves at whatever cost, 
and thus enable the ship to come into close proximity with the 
warehouse. No sooner was the wharf system determined on, 
than Central wharf extended itself into the bay, followed, in 
quick succession, by Cunningham's, Broadway, Pacific, Market, 
California, Vallejo and Clay Street. In consequence of this 
sudden and beneficial metamorphosis, the question of the con- 
tinuance of this city as a great commercial depot ceased to be 
mooted, and the port of San Francisco marched rapidly forward, 
till it occupies a position foremost among the ports of the world. 
From the greatly increased facilities for lading and unlading 
given to commerce, sprang the fleet of ocean-monarchs, known 
as the Clippers, the pride of the ocean and the swift-winged 
messengers of civilization. The mighty change which took 
place in naval architecture, at this period, is equalled only by 
the other extraordinary developments that have taken place 
within the last half century. Instead of the old " Balance," and 



13 



her class of ships, some of which are yet to be seen in our har- 
bor, but many of which are rotting beneath substantial brick 
warehouses, we have the "Flying Fish," the " Flying Cloud," 
the " Sea King," the " Sovereign of the Seas," and that long list 
of clippers that have reflected glory and honor upon the commer- 
cial marine of our confederacy. 

THE PROGRESS OF DETERIORATION. 

Then, too, commenced the real and substantial prosperity of 
our city. Hills were leveled, streets and lots were opened and 
graded, substantial brick edifices arose in every direction, capital 
poured in upon us, and all the means of building up the metrop- 
olis of a great commonwealth were abundantly supplied. The 
soil, under the waters of the bay, has, in some points, been 
reclaimed for more than half a mile from what originally consti- 
tuted the water front of the city; not because there was not. 
space enough for its business at that time, but because it is the 
constant tendency of commerce to unite the warehouse and the 
ship, and thereby save the expenses of local transportation and 
cartage. This has necessarily cost an expenditure of more than 
twenty millions of dollars, on what is called the water lot por- 
tion of the city, extending from Montgomery street eastward. 
So great was the anxiety of parties to get as near the water line 
as possible, that, in the general scramble, the work of piling, 
capping and filling in has been done in the most reckless and 
destructive manner, without the slightest regard to the best inter- 
ests of this port as a commercial emporium. One would think 
that the object had been to destroy, at once and forever, its com- 
mercial advantages, rather than to foster, to fortify, and to pre- 
serve them. Particular portions of the present water line of the 
city have filled up to the extent of fourteen feet and upwards, 
so that where three years since there was a depth of twenty-five 
feet of water, where the largest ships could lay at the wharves 
and discharge, there is now a depth of only eleven feet, and in 
many places even less. 

From the combination of causes now in operation, the rapid 
and total destruction of the water front is progressing with as 
much facility as the present water lots have been filled in and 
occupied, — causes which are working destruction alike to the 
wharfing interest as well as the property in the business por- 
tions of the city. The greater portion of this shoaling has taken 



It 



place within the last three years, and what is known as the 
" Tonquin Shoal," off the North Beach, has extended itself into 
the bay more than half a mile. It. is undeniably true that these 
deteriorating causes must be stopped, or within the next ten 
years, the entire commercial front of this city will be changed, 
and commerce must find some other point of ingress and egress 
than by its present avenues. In the event of such a catastrophe, 
what then would be the value of all the property lying between 
Rincon Point and North Point ? The individual losses, as well 
as the loss to the entire community, in the depreciation of capi- 
tal already invested in the lands reclaimed and the buildings 
erected thereon, would be ruinous in the extreme. It seems to 
want but this to be the crowning calamity to our already ac- 
cumulated misfortunes. 

THE PRESENT CRISIS AND ITS AUTHORS. 

Possessing at one time, a public domain in the lands be- 
longing to the city corporation more than regal, what now 
have we left? If the lands belonging to this municipality 
had been managed judiciously, and wisely, and honestly, 
there would have been no need of a dollar of taxation on 
our citizens for twenty years to come. As it is, our lands 
are gone ; the community is burdened with a public debt 
of more than three millions of dollars; our whole domain 
is squandered and stolen ; our debt has been illegally and dis- 
honestly contracted, and for months we have been tottering on 
the verge of bankruptcy and ruin. Whatever there has been in 
the late financial crisis peculiarly aggravated and overwhelming ; 
whatever to distinguish it from all other calamaties which have 
ever chequered the history of this city ; whatever has made it 
the crisis it has been and still is, it is the fault, Sir, of your pre- 
decessors. It is my unwavering conviction that but for the 
dishonest proclivities of high officials, this crisis could never have 
occurred. They forgot the language of our fathers, that « a con- 
stant adherence to the principles of piety, justice, moderation 
and frugality, is absolutely necessary to the maintenance of a 
free government." Montesquieu laid it down long ago, that 
" while fear was the principle of a despotism and honor of a mon- 
archy, virtue was the only principle, the foundation principle of 
a republic." " When virtue," he continues, « is banished from a 
republic, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed 



to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community * * 
The members of the Commonwealth riot on 
the pubVc spoils, and its strength is only the power of a few and 
the licentiousness of many." Do we not see around us signs 
enough to convince us that virtue, if not banished, is not among 
us, at the present moment, in her full might and majesty ? See 
we not inordinate ambition invading some minds, and inordinate 
avarice others ? See we not something of the power of a few, and 
of the licentiousness of m&ny ? See we not high officials rioting 
on the public spoils ? Has not extravagance marked their ca- 
reer ? Have they not speculated in the public lands, and gambled 
away the public property ? 

By what bad fortune is it, that men, intellectually and morally 
disqualified for offices of honor and responsibility, have been 
raised to the pinnacle of power ? By what bad fortune is it, 
that we were obliged to be cursed, in the very infancy of our 
existence as a city, with men of dishonest proclivities, and of 
general unfitness to discharge with credit to themselves or ben- 
efit to others, the offices to which they aspired and which, most 
unfortunately, they obtained ? " What raging dog-star, what 
influence of Dragon's Tail, or Ursa Major, what spherical pre- 
dominance or heavenly compulsion, what thrusting on of deity 
or of devil," has prostrated business, destroyed confidence, and 
well-nigh bankrupt the city ? What, I repeat, but official tur- 
pitude, for the past six years, — its disregard of law, its violations 
of the charter — its frauds and peculations in the public offices 
— its " howl after gold " — its " screech after spoils " has brought 
all these evils upon us and been the main and primary agency 
in the production of this crisis! It needs only the destruction 
of the commercial portion of our city, by the destruction of our 
wharves, to cap the climax of our misfortunes and distresses. 
" The goose will then be killed that laid the golden eggs." 

CONDITION OF THE STREETS. MAN-TRAPS. 

The necessity of the proposed improvement of the water front 
may be seen from the present condition of the streets in that 
section of the city. Without the construction of a Bulkhead 
they cannot be filled in, nor paved, nor built upon with substan- 
tial and durable warehouses, nor made permanently servicable 
for the requirements of a great commercial metropolis. The 
following extract, copied from the Nevada Journal, is a fair spec- 



16 

eimen of the style in which the country press speaks of the 
frightful and digraceful condition of our streets : 

" When we hear of the floating corpses of unfortunates who 
are daily fished out of the waters of the bay,; when we hear of 
passengers arriving from the states, passing safely over all the 
dangers of the ocean, arriving full of hope upon the shores of 
the land in which they expected to build their fortunes, only to 
perish like drowned dogs, strangled in filth and slime ; when we 
read of citizens who reside in the vicinity of these pitfalls hear- 
ing every night "the splash of heavy bodies in the water, and 
the heart-stirring cry for succor;" and when we reflect that all 
this occurs in the midst of a populous city, the metropolis of a 
great civilized state, it is difficult to analyze the passion which 
affects us, whether it is most of indignation or disgust. It is 
useless to tell us that there is no way to cure the evil ; that this 
official or the other has no power to act in the matter. The 
world outside of San Francisco will not and ought not to 
be quieted and hushed by this shifting of responsibility from one 
shoulder to another. The people of California everywhere have 
a right to demand that their friends and relatives, in whose well- 
being they have a near interest, and whose lives are dear to 
them, should not be made to step from the steamers or ships 
which have brought them from their homes, unwarned and un- 
advised, into a foul and miserable grave. 

" There is a fearful responsibilty somewhere. If the Common 
Council are powerless, it becomes the business of the citizens to 
mend the evil, and that right soon. It is not a question of gen- 
erosity, of humanity : it is simply their duty. If the corporation 
is bankrupt, there is still wealth enough in e city to do this 
thing. The evil is growing to be a fearful one. It is not merely 
an evil; it is a sin. There is guilt of blood somewhere, which 
should be purified." 

It is estimated, that within the last four months, more than 
sixty persons have lost their lives by falling through these yawn- 
ing holes, dangerous alike to man and beast. 

UNPRODUCTIVE TERRITORY. 

Extensive tracts of land in the eastern section of the city will 
remain unimproved, and consequently unproductive, until this 
great work has been accomplished. Let this be done, and a 
gratifying impulse will be given to a section of the city where 



17 



there is nothing now but a wide waste of depreciated territory. 
Under the stimulus excited by this improvement, to fill in these 
waste lands and cover them with substantial buildings for com- 
mercial and mechanical purposes, the amounts accruing from 
taxable property thus brought into being, would soon com- 
mence flowing steadily and uninterruptedly into the treasury, 
from sources heretofore contemplated, but never fully realised. 
Let this work be neglected, however, a few years longer, and a 
well grounded apprehension may be entertained, that a magnifi- 
cent property is in absolute danger of being sacrificed, to the 
serious detriment of individuals and the public finances. When 
property holders shall see that the contemplated improvement is 
taken hold of by men of energy and enterprise, backed up by the 
capital necessary to complete the work, we shall see immediate 
efforts on their part to prepare their land for occupancy. Hun- 
dreds of acres would be speedily covered with shops, warehouses 
and buildings of every description. As this measure, then, is 
calculated to advance the prosperity of the city, should it not 
receive the favorable consideration of the council and the legis- 
lature ? Will they not be justified in pursuing a generous 
course towards those who are developing new plans that prom- 
ise beneficial results, without being called upon to surrender a 
single interest? The work cannot safely — it must not — be 
longer delayed. The project will also confer a peculiar blessing 
upon laborers and the mechanical interests by creating a demand 
for their services. Any great improvement which tends to create 
a demand for labor is praiseworthy, and should receive the appro- 
bation and support of the affluent and those occupying official 
positions. 

MONTREAL BRIDGE. 

The Canadians are now erecting, I am informed, a tubular 
bridge across the St. Lawrence, at Montreal, at an expense of 
between six and seven millions of dollars. If the wants of trav- 
el and commerce justify an expenditure of this amount to cross 
a river, where steamboats are constantly plying, except when 
obstructed by ice, will it not justify the expenditure of about one 
half this sum in San Francisco, in an effort to preserve our 
wharves, facilitate the operations of commerce, and add greatly 
to the business resources, the convenience and wealth of the city? 
2 



IS 



ASSERTED MONOPOLY. 



Great complaint has been made at sundry times, against the 
wharf interest, as a system of overpowering monopoly. Its 
rates are represented to be excessive and extortionate, and the 
dividends to be correspondingly enormous. To this I wish par- 
ticularly to say, that those who make this complaint can, if they 
find it convenient, easily try the experiment of those enormous 
dividends. The stocks of those wharves, which are complained 
of for doing so good a business, can be had on the streets every 
day in the week. They may be purchased sometimes at public, 
but always at private sale, by those who wish to buy. And 
what is most remarkable, all of them may be bought at from 
twenty-five to forty cents on the dollar. Persons may take 
shares to suit themselves, and come in for scot and lot in all their 
exorbitant earnings. Before they determine to do so, however, 
they will, perhaps, be disposed to propound to themselves some 
such questions as these : can it be true, that stocks which can 
be purchased at such rates, can yield, uniformly and certainly, 
dividends so enormous ? Californians generally are sharp 
enough, Heaven knows, at a bargain ; would they be likely to 
sell, for twenty-five or forty dollars, that which would give them 
a regular and reliable California interest on one hundred ? Must 
it not be, on the other hand, that the great profits, which are so 
much harped upon, are only the exceptions to the general rule ; 
and that the average earnings are, after all, only a fair interest 
on the investment? If persons who complain of the wharf mo- 
nopoly are sincere in what they say, and really believe in the 
monthly payment of enormous dividends, let them buy into one 
or more of the wharves already established, if they are not able 
to build for themselves, and thus take a share of its benefits. 
How can that be called a monopoly, to which the price of ad- 
mission is so low as to enable the poor alike with the rich, to 
participate in its benefits ? 

A COMMERCIAL MEASURE. 

As a commercial measure, the improvement under considera- 
tion, is of a most important character. What part of California, 
Sir, less than the whole, is concerned in the safe and easy dis- 
charge of our full freighted clipper ships? It appears from 
surveys that have been made, that the land bordering on the 



1«) 



water-front is being rapidly carried into the bay by the continued 
action of the winds and waves. The rapid shallowing, which 
has resulted from the operation of the detritus, is, at this mo- 
ment, cause of the most serious apprehension to those of our 
merchants who have given the subject their consideration. 
Where the depth of the water was twenty-five feet three years 
since, there is now a depth of only fourteen feet. Indeed, at 
many points, it has become a matter of great difficulty to bring 
a first class vessel to a suitable berth. Of the urgent necessity, 
therefore, of a sea wall or Bulkhead along the city front, to arrest 
this process of destruction, no man will doubt. To invite com- 
merce to our shores, we must have, not only all the appliances 
of a good harbor, but also the means of a cheap, easy and rapid 
discharge of the ship's cargo. 

ARRIVALS AT PORT. 

The number of arrivals at our port is prodigious, taking into 
consideration our population and the recent period of its existence. 
During the last year there were 345 arrivals from foreign ports, 
being nearly one for every day in the year. There were, of 
course, not far from the same number of foreign clearances. 
Look at our coastwise and domestic trade ! Of arrivals from 
outside the heads, consisting of clipper and other ships, ocean 
steamers, barks and brigs from foreign ports ; of barks, brigs and 
schooners from outside coast trade ; and of steamers, schooners 
and sloops from the bays and rivers inside, there were in the 
month of May, 1855, not less than 650 ; in June, 826 ; in July, 
926; in August, 1127; in September, 1177; in October. 1313; 
in November, 824 ; in December, 821 ; and in January last, 657 ; 
making the total number of arrivals in nine months, 8339, being 
an average of more than thirty each day. From the ports of 
New York and Boston alone, there were 112 arrivals, all of them 
vessels of the largest class — ships of from 500 to 2,000 tons 
burden each — bringing corn, flour, tobacco, beef, pork, lard and 
merchandise of all descriptions, amounting to many millions of 
dollars in value. The whole number of vessels that have arrived 
at this port during the last three years is 5401. The total num- 
ber of vessels known to be on their way to this port, on the 
first of January last, from foreign and domestic ports, is 92. 
Our commerce with Australia and the Islands of the Pacific has 



20 



greatly increased since 1853, and very materially over that of 
the year 1854. 

EXPORTS. 

" Perhaps, however, the most important feature in the business 
of the country during the past year has been its exports. With 
the exception of gold and quicksilver, California had exported 
nothing, it might be said, up to the beginning of 1855. A few 
vessels had, it is true, taken away cargoes, but they were of the 
most heterogeneous character and were of but little value — a 
few hides and horns, scrap iron, junk, some few articles of mer- 
chandise, reshipped to the ports from which they were originally 
received; — these were the California cargoes. How different is 
all this now! During the past year we have shipped cargo after 
cargo of the agricultural products of our own soil to the most 
distant parts of the earth — to Europe, to Australia, to South 
America, to China, to the North eoast of our own continent — 
the value of which to the state cannot be estimated merely in 
the dollars and cents realized. California is already becoming 
known as an exporter of grain and flour, as well as of gold, and 
there can exist no reasonable doubt that, as her resources are 
developed one after the other, the list will be swelled until it 
rivals that of some of the older states. Four years #go, the 
man who looked forward to the time when we would be export- 
ing flour, was considered visionary. There are those among us 
who are sanguine that we shall yet export cotton, tobacco, wool 
and hemp. With the experience of the last four years before us, 
should we despise such prophecies? With the peculiar capabili- 
ties of soil and climate which California possesses, nothing can 
be considered impossible." — Prices Current. 

The total value of exports to foreign and domestic ports dur- 
ing the year 1855, amounted to $4,645,959.00 ; and of imports 
during the same period, $75,000,000.00. The excess of exports 
over imports in the articles of flour, wheat, barley and oats, 
amounted in value to $9,888,500.00. The whole amount paid 
here for freight during the year was $3,899,765.00, and during 
the last three years was $21,880,240.00. The total shipment of 
treasure to New York, London, Panama, China, Manilla, Cal- 
cutta, Peru and the Sandwich Islands, for the last three years 
amounts to $231,053,894.00. Of quicksilver, there were exported 
during the past year, 28,914 flasks, of seventy-five pounds each, 
which, at fifty cts. per pound, represents a value of $1,084,307.50. 



21 



All this by sea carriage. All this through the harbor which it 
is proposed to improve, to beautify and make permanent by the 
construction of a sea wall or Bulkhead. But in order to form 
any just estimate of the value of our harbor to the agricultural- 
ist, the manufacturer, the mechanic and the merchant — in a 
word, to the whole city and state, and more or less to the whole 
Pacific coast, — it would be necessary to present an array of sta- 
tistics which I have not immediately by me, but which are within 
the reach of all who have preserved the earlier January numbers 
of the leading city papers. Not less than 81 vessels have been 
floating in the harbor at one time, including ships, barks, brigs 
and schooners. 

WHALING BUSINESS. 

"A mercantile interest," says the Alta, " of great importance 
to California, is the whaling business of the Pacific. From what 
has transpired within the last year, it is clearly evident that a 
disposition exists on the part of the whalers to make this their 
place of resort for repairs and refitting, as well as for the purpose 
of trans-shipment of cargoes to the Atlantic ports. A spacious 
dry dock for repairs; ships' supplies at prices little, if any, in 
advance of the rates of eastern cities; and the certainty of ob- 
taining at all times ample tonnage, are, certainly, inducements 
which no other port adjacent to the whaling grounds presents, 
and which cannot be overlooked. The number of whaling ves- 
sels arriving during 1855 materially exceeds that of either of the 
two preceding years, 1 ' The total number of vessels employed in 
the whale fishery on the first of January, in this year, was 585 
ships and barks, 21 brigs and 29 schooners, of an aggregate ton- 
nage of 199,141 tons. Of the total amount of tonnage, 134,530 
tons belong to the district of New Bedford alone. By a gener- 
ous liberality on our part, and by proper legislation to protect the 
interests of the whalers, we may reasonably hope that this port 
will soon become the refitting depot for this vast amount of 
tonnage. 

DEPOT OF STEAM NAVIGATION. 

Next to the consequence of San Francisco as a trading port, 
is its high importance as a depot for steam navigation. The 
steamers of the Pacific Mail Company and of the Nicaragua 
Transit Line which, for size, excellent accommodations and 
speed, are justly the objects of general admiration, leave and 



36 

enter the port weekly. Large steamships run regularly from this 
port to Oregon and ports on the Southern coast. Packets are 
also regularly sent northward, southward and westward, and a 
line of steamers is talked of to run regularly from San Francisco 
to China. Of the numerous steam vessels engaged in the home 
service, a large number sail to and from Marysville, Sacramento, 
Stockton and various points on the bay, and are seen at almost 
all hours, plying for passengers, or running up and down the bay. 
In short, nothing can be more striking, or better convince the 
stranger of the great scale on which the entire business of San 
Francisco is conducted, than the view from Telegraph Hill, 
where the eye takes in at one sweep the entire harbor of the city, 
and where, as is often the case, the forest of masts extending up 
and down the harbor will furnish incontestible evidence of the 
magnitude and importance of our commercial operations. He 
will see, in prosperous times, activity everywhere visible ; large 
and extensive warehouses extending along the city front, instinct 
with life and labor; ships constantly entering and leaving the 
harbor; large numbers of steamers of every size and quality, 
packets, ferry boats and tugs, rapidly coursing up and down the 
bay to their several destinations. 

But enough has been stated to illustrate the overwhelming 
importance of our harbor; enough, certainly, to dispel the idea, 
if it ever existed, that the contemplated improvement is an object 
worthy of no consideration or attention. It is a matter of such 
cogent necessity as to awaken the deepest solicitude, and to 
excite immediate and decisive action. It is important to all 
alike, irrespective of party lines and trammels. Indeed, all mere 
party considerations should be ignored, and all should unite in 
the support of a measure which is not more calculated to advance 
the special interests of San Francisco, than it is to promote the 
general advantage of the whole commonwealth. 

THE WORK MUST BE DONE BY PRIVATE CAPITAL. 

This work, if executed at all, must be done by private capital 
and enterprise. The basis of a credit to raise the necessary 
means is the entire wharfing interest of the city, together with 
the wharves now constructed, which have cost the present pro- 
prietors about $2,000,000.00. On this it is proposed to issue 
bonds, with coupons attached, redeemable in twenty years, and 
bearing interest at the rate of from six to ten per cent, per annum. 



23 



These bonds, together with the revenue accruing from the 
wharves, will be amply sufficient to complete the work in the 
strongest and most durable manner. Nor need the outlay exceed 
the ability to provide. Stone of all kinds can be procured with 
little expense, and with every facility for working it. Practical 
and scientific men, possessing knowledge of the construction of 
works of this kind, are of opinion that a substantial sea wall, 
built of the best material and workmanship, ought not greatly to 
exceed the sum which the present wharves have cost, including 
the annual cost of repairs. A work of the kind contemplated 
should be executed with reference to its durability. Nothing 
temporary or insecure should ever be constructed for public pur- 
poses. It is presumed that the work will last for centuries, or 
as long as it is possible, considering the use for which it is 
intended. 

THE CITY CANNOT, AND THE STATE WILL NOT, DO THE WORK. 

But the question maybe asked, — Why not let the city or 
the state do this work? Simply, because the city cannot do it, 
and the state will not. They should not, even if they possessed 
the inclination or the ability. This is just one of that class of 
improvements that should be left to private capital and enter- 
prise. The state should never come in as a distinct corporation, 
and on its own account engage in operations of this kind. It 
may and must, at many times and in many ways, come into the 
market and buy and sell in competition with its own citizens. 
It has jails and penitentiaries to build ; the sick, the insane and 
the idiotic to clothe, feed and provide for ; but it must do this on 
the principle of its own right to exist. It should do nothing 
except in direct conservation of public interest and public free- 
dom. Nothing can be more odious than that the strong arm of 
the state should be thrusting itself into improvements of the 
kind contemplated. Whatever the state does should be done 
in such a manner that the whole commonwealth shall be bene- 
fitted, and not that the state, as an independent corporation, 
may be making money out of its own particular members. 

GOVERNMENT MONOPOLY. 

The tendency of all government monopoly is to overpower 



24 

and exclude all private competition. A wise government will 
never interpose its action to the hindrance and discouragement 
of private enterprise. The state does not exist for the purpose 
of doing any thing that private agency can accomplish as well, 
or even better. If private good can promote the public good, 
or can be prosecuted with no interference to the public good, the 
state authority has no right to interfere with it ; but, on the 
contrary, by a wise system of legislation, to foster and encourage 
it to the greatest possible extent. The state may justly and 
rightfully interfere where individuals or corporate action will be 
unavailable. Mr. Calhoun laid down the doctrine, at the Mem- 
phis Convention, "that whatever can be done by individuals, 
they ought to accomplish ; and that whatever is peculiarly 
within the province of the states, they should effect." The fact 
that government operations — whether general, state or munici- 
pal — are never managed so economically and productively as 
private enterprises, should exclude it from all such improve- 
ments as can be met by the application of private capital and 
labor. 

As an illustration, take New York and Boston. The New 
York wharves are of a mixed character, being partly owned by 
private individuals and partly by the city corporation. While 
those owned by private, citizens have uniformly paid a hand- 
some revenue, those owned by the corporation have for the last 
eight years been a drain upon the city to an amount equal to 
about six times their revenue. The Battery, which is owned by 
the city, is valued at $3,000,000, and the balance of its wharf 
property is valued at $3,257,500. The aggregate amounts to 
$0,257,500. Such are the facts stated in the Manual of the 
Common Council for the year 1855. A writer, in the Journal 
of Commerce, advocating the sale of this property, says : " The 
wharf property now in the hands of the corporation would be 
quite as available for commerce, and more economically man- 
aged, if held as private property. The patronage of the corpo- 
ration may be diminished to the public advantage, and it is 
better that individuals, under proper restrictions, should do those 
things which do not necessarily require the aid of public ser- 
vants. The public would lose no advantage by the sale of the 
public wharves, for at present they are a drain on the revenues 
of the city. A just and equal tax on the property sold, after 



25 

five years, will leave a balance worth vastly more than any ren- 
tal accruing at present from the wharves." 

The Boston wharves are all owned by individuals or corpo- 
rate bodies. They are the best wharves in the United States — 
permanent, durable and substantial. The wharfage rates are 
uniform throughout the city, and yield a larger revenue than the 
wharves of any other city on the Atlantic coast. They are sub- 
ject to taxation and yield a handsome revenue for the support of 
the city government. The state has always pursued towards 
them a wise and liberal policy. 

There are many works of national benefit too heavy for pri- 
vate capital to sustain ; many where the national benefit would 
be great, though the pecuniary income would not reward, and 
therefore would not enlist private enterprise; many where the 
income would be so remote in time that a generation might pass 
away before private capital would be brought to it : and hence a 
watchful eye might find much for the state to do in advancing 
and confirming its civilization, where private interest and enter- 
prise would find nothing to invite its attention. It may be 
readily admitted that states often engage in improvements 
which are truly out of their proper authority, and also as 
readily admitted that they often omit such as the public good 
urgently demands. 

THE PETITION. 

If then the city cannot do this work, and the state loill not, 
and the city and state should not do the work, however great 
the ability or inclination to do it, it will nevertheless be deemed 
wise for them to extend all reasonable encouragement, by judi- 
cious and liberal legislation, to those private citizens, or corpo- 
rate bodies, who are disposed to embark in the proposed im- 
provement. A petition is now before the Honorable City Coun- 
cil in which the petitioners propose to build a permanent sea- 
wall or Bulkhead upon the present water line of this city, said 
structure to be built according to plans and specifications to be 
furnished by a competent engineer to be mutually chosen by 
that honorable body and the petitioners. They not only pro- 
mise to build said structure in a permanent and substantial 
manner, but also to complete it, from Folsom street on the 



south, to Vallejo street on the north, within ten years from the 
date of the contract which the petitioners propose to make with 
the City Council. They also bind themselves to complete a 
similar structure within ten years after the expiration of the said 
first named period, of the same length, on any portion of the city 
front that may be directed by the Council, or by their successors 
in office. 

And in consideration of the faithful performance of this work, 
they respectfully ask that the wharfing right of the city may be 
granted to them and their heirs or assigns, for a period of years 
that may be agreed upon by the Council and the other parties 
to the contract. They also ask that the rates of wharfage to be 
charged shall be agreed upon for the first fifteen years, and that 
they shall not exceed a certain rate to be fixed. That after the 
expiration of the said fifteen years, the rates of wharfage shall 
be determined and settled every five years by a Board of Com- 
missioners to be chosen by the city and by the parties interested 
in said grant. That said grant shall be free from municipal, 
county and state taxes and licenses for fifteen years. That the 
grant shall be binding on both parties when it shall have been 
ratified by the Commissioners of the Funded Debt of the City 
of San Francisco, by the City of San Francisco, and by the 
Legislature. In furtherance of which, the petitioners respect- 
fully ask the consideration of the City Council to the foregoing 
propositions, and solicit from them the appointment of a proper 
committee to confer with them in reference thereto. 

Shall not the prayer of the petitioners be granted ? Do they 
ask anything unreasonable, or which it will not be for the in- 
terest of the city to grant ? The kind of legislation asked for in 
this petition is precisely that kind which may be reasonably 
asked for by any citizen or combination of citizens, for the per- 
formance of any other work of great public utility. Liberal leg- 
islation is asked for, not in a way of favoritism, nor in a manner 
that shall operate unjustly and partially. It is a stupendous 
work, and can be accomplished only at an expenditure of 
several millions of dollars. It is a work not for this generation 
only, but also for succeeding generations, who shall inhabit this 
city for hundreds of years to come. Reference, therefore, is to 
be had to the advancing future, rather than confining ourselves 
to the exigencies to to-day. All history proves that liberal leg- 



27 



islation has always been the wisest and the best. A liberal 
extension of encouragement stimulates enterprise, and directly 
contributes to the advantage of the whole community. 

LOG-ROLLING. 

It has been said upon the streets that the measure under con- 
sideration can only be carried through a corrupt system of log- 
rolling. To this it may be replied, in the forcible language of 
an eminent statesman, in a speech delivered in the halls of Con- 
gress, " that he who can see nothing but corruption in measures 
of great public usefulness, must himself be sadly corrupt. 
Nothing of real value to the country has ever been, or ever will 
be effected, without some degree of that sort of combination 
which is stigmatised as log-rolling. Mutual concessions, recip- 
rocal benefits, compensation and compromise, have been the 
very laws of our existence and progress. Whatever common 
dangers have been averted, common wrongs redressed, common 
interests promoted, or common principles vindicated, it has been 
by a system of log-rolling. It was log-rolling which achieved 
our independence. It was log-rolling which established our 
Constitution. And the Union itself is nothing but systematic 
log-rolling under a more stately name. Doubtless such combi- 
nations may sometimes proceed from corrupt or unworthy con- 
siderations; but when the object at which they aim is of such 
clear and unquestionable importance, and of such public and 
general utility as that which is now before us, these unmanly 
imputations upon motives may, I think, be spared." 

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS. 

Looking at the magnitude of this object, looking to its highly 
important character to this city and state, and indeed to the 
w hole Pacific coast from the mouth of the Columbia to San 
Diego, I feel justified in addressing you, Sir, and through you, 
the city and state, in tones of warmth and earnestness. Have 
not the gentlemen who propose to construct this work, at a cost 
of from three to five millions of dollars, a strong claim to public 
consideration and regard ? Do they not hazard their property in 
an undertaking of vast utility to the shores of the Pacific ? In 
constructing the present wharves, at a cost of two millions of 



28 



dollars, did they not incur all the risks usually attending such 
enterprises ? Whatever may be said of their large tolls, it is yet 
a fact that all their receipts, up to this hour, have by no means 
given a return for their capital equal to the ordinary interest of 
money in this part of the country. When they stepped forward 
and supplied this great public want, and ihus cheapened the 
value of our importations, at least to the extent of thirty-three 
and one-third per cent., who then regarded their tolls as unjust 
impositions, or stigmatized their charter as an odious monopoly ? 
Who called it so, or who thought thus of it when it was granted 
to them? Who but they, were willing to undertake the work, 
to advance the money, and to incur all the risks and chances of 
failure? Who then blamed, reproached, or denounced the 
enterprising individuals who hazarded their money in a project 
to construct wharves for the benefit of the whole common- 
wealth ? No body, Sir. Then, all was encouragement and 
cheering onward. The cry was, then, go on ! run the hazard ; 
try the experiment; let our ships and steam-boats and vessels of 
every name and extent of tonnage have a safe and commodious 
landing; make an effort to overcome the great hardships to 
which we are now subjected; if you fail, the loss, indeed, will 
be yours ; but if you succeed, all the world will agree that you 
ought to be fairly and fully remunerated for the risk and ex- 
penditure of capital. They did succeed, but the remuneration 
is yet to be realized. 

Time rolled on ; and with it has commenced the progress of 
decay. The continued action of the waves; the beating of 
ships against the piers ; the weight of myriad tons of freight ; the 
unceasing activity of the worms and the rapid filling up of the 
harbor are, separately and in combination, rapidly effecting the 
destruction of the wharves. To prevent this destruction ; to 
save to the stockholders the capital already expended, and to 
secure a safe and unobstructed harbor through all time to come, 
it is proposed to build a Bulkhead along the city front. This 
work is of importance enough to demand the attention and 
favorable consideration of the city and state governments. To 
be sure, it is but a Bulkhead,— and a Bulkhead around the city 
front, — but that city is San Francisco, whose future commercial 
greatness and importance no pen can adequately describe ; the 
waters of whose bay will bear on their bosoms the ships of all 



29 



nations ; whose harbor will ever be consecrated to the uses of 
men, to the purposes of trade, and to the great objects of inter- 
oceanic communication. Whoever, Sir, would do his duty in 
the municipal and state councils, must look upon this proposed 
improvement as it is, in its whole length and breadth. He 
must comprehend it in its full extent, its vast importance, its 
permanent character, and its overwhelming necessity. This im- 
provement will establish itself by its own necessity, its own 
obvious and confessed utility, and the benefits which it is des- 
tined so widely to confer. We shall wonder, hereafter, who 
could doubt the propriety of this undertaking, and shall wonder 
yet more that it was delayed even so long. It is an improve- 
ment in which not this city alone, but the whole state is directly 
interested. (See San Francisco Herald, of February 10th.) 

Every citizen of the state is therefore bound to give his voice 
in encouragement to this great undertaking. He should allow 
no party jealousy to sway his judgment or control his feelings. 
Let no boundaries of sea or land, of rock or river, of desert or 
mountain, interpose as a barrier to the consummation of those 
measures which have for their result the highest and best devel- 
opment of the resources of the state. Let the east unite with 
the west of our Pacific State, and the north with the south, and 
by the potent energy of their mighty and majestic voice, 

" Bid harbors open, public ways extend ; 
Bid the broad arch the dangerous flood contain ; 
The mole projected break the roaring main ; 
Back to his bounds the subject sea command, 
And roll obedient rivers through the land.'" 

It matters not whether the improvement be on the seashore 
or in the interior, in the city or in the country, on the plains or 
in the mountains, it is sufficient to know that the object is a 
good one, an important one, within the power of accomplish- 
ment, and called for by the fair claims of our commerce. This 
is the feeling of true patriotism as well as the dictate of enlight- 
ened self interest. If, from the destruction of our wharves and 
the rapid filling up of our harbor by the action of the present 
city front, cargoes are lost, if they be injured, if their delivery be 
delayed, if the expense of their transportation be increased, who 
does not see that all interested in them become sufferers ? Who 



30 

does not see that every producer, every manufacturer, every 
trader, every laborer, every miner, has an interest in this improve- 
ment? Surely this is one of the cases in which the interest of 
the whole is the interest of each. Every man has his dividend 
out of this augmented public advantage. But if it were not so — 
if the effect were merely local, if the work were useful to San 
Francisco alone, still it is a case of sufficient importance to de- 
mand immediate and earnest attention. But when it can be 
shown so clearly that the contemplated improvement is so im- 
portant, so expedient, so highly desirable to this city and state, and 
so useful to the whole Pacific coast, does it not deserve and shall it 
not receive the encouragement and generous support of municipal 
and state legislation ? Sometimes, Sir, the best mode of judging 
of the value of a work, is to ask how we should be affected by its 
loss, if, after possessing it, it should be taken away. Suppose 
we had at this moment the Bulkhead constructed all around the 
city front, and it should, by some convulsion of nature, sink, or 
be destroyed ; would it not be thought the most direful calamity 
so far as the commerce of this port is concerned ? Suppose we 
had a railway — a natural railway — a level ridge from San 
Francisco to Sacramento and Marysville, and so on, to Shasta, 
on the north, and to Stockton and Sonora, on the south, laid 
down by the hand of Providence, and ready for use; and the 
philosophers had been able, by their tables and instruments, to 
predict some great catastrophe which would destroy it, and had 
foretold the day when the earth would open and swallow it up ; 
should we not regard it almost as the day of approaching doom, 
and be ready to open our churches and fall on our knees, and 
implore a merciful Providence to arrest the calamity ? And 
how does the case differ, Sir, in a practical point of view, be- 
tween the loss of a great blessing, proceeding from an over- 
whelming natural convulsion, and its want, arising from our 
own neglect and apathy? The people of California and the 
citizens of San Francisco, as the commercial emporium of the 
commonwealth, are distinguished for their energy, enterprise and 
perseverance. This is sufficiently evident from our past history. 
" But yesterday," Sir, to adopt the language of a great states- 
man, " California was a colony in embryo." But yesterday, to 
use the language which Burke once applied to America, it was 
a little speck, scarce visible in the mass of material interest ; a 



31 



small seminal principle, rather than a formed body. To-day it 
presents itself to us as an established commonwealth. What 
the same great British orator said of the American colonies in 
1775, is true of California. " Such is the strength with which pop- 
ulation shoots in that part of the world, that, state the numbers as 
high as we will, whilst the dispute continues, the exaggeration 
ends. Whilst we are discussing any given magnitude, they are 
grown to it." " I do not believe," says the same statesman, 
"that a better class of citizens was ever found flocking in 
snch numbers to any new settlement on the face of the earth." 
The immense distance, the formidable difficulties and the oner- 
ous expense of the pilgrimage to California, necessarily confined 
emigration to men of some pecuniary substance, as well as to 
men of more than ordinary physical endurance. We have all 
seen going out from our respective neighborhoods not a few 
hardy, honest, industrious and patriotic young men, 

" Bearing their birthrights proudly on their backs, 
To make a hazard of new fortunes there." 

Shall it be said, then, that we have not the sagacity to per- 
ceive what industry and energy and enterprise can do to supply 
that which nature leaves to the co-operation of man ? For 
carrying on commerce, we have every thing which the heart of 
man can desire — one of the best harbors in the world ; for ag- 
riculture, we have the soil and climate best adapted, not only 
to the raising for exportation of the great agricultural staples, 
but for the support of a frugal and industrious yeomanry ; for 
manufactures we are, by this last circumstance, admirably 
prepared as we shall be able, when attention and capital are 
turned in that direction, not only to supply ourselves with all 
necessary manufactured articles, but also to compete success- 
fully, in this branch of industry, with any other people on earth. 
In short, Sir, we want nothing but what we shall be able our- 
selves, with energy, enterprise, and the wise application of cap- 
ital, to acquire ; and I have greatly mistaken the character of 
the people of California, in town or country, if any such wants 
remain long unsupplied. On the contrary, it is the genius of 
our people, their peculiar characteristic, by the use of capital, by 
energy and enterprise, not merely to supply what are commonly 
called natural defects, but to open mines of wealth, where others 
see only the marks of barrenness. 



32 



Therefore, in whatever light we regard this worlc, it presses 
itself upon our consideration as indispensable to the safety of 
our port and the prosperity of the city. If speedily completed, 
it will secure to us all the advantages we now possess and fur- 
nish us the means of their indefinite extension. If long delayed 
the consequences will be disastrous. Every consideration con- 
nected with our position as a commercial people urges the 
completion of this work. 

It is morally certain that the business activity and wealth of 
the city will increase many fold in the lifetime of our children. 
The agricultural riches, the mineral wealth, the mechanical pro- 
ductions of the whole Pacific slope, will concentrate by every 
line of conveyance, to San Francisco, to be transported in accu- 
mulated tons to every quarter of the globe. If the last six years 
are any criterion by which to judge of the future, what may not 
be anticipated in the next five and twenty years, when our pop- 
ulation shall be reckoned by millions ? Every new development, 
every fresh discovery, every great improvement, is calculated to 
enhance the business life of this city, incalculably beyond any 
thing belonging to its present stirring activity. "When the great 
Pacific Rail Road is completed, the noblest and grandest achiev- 
ment ever proposed for the glory and advancement of this state, 
as well as of the whole United States, who will be able to esti- 
mate the value of the commerce of this metropolis, its mercan- 
tile importance, its extended maritime relations ? God grant 
that individual enterprise, intelligence, virtue, and honorable 
dealing may keep pace with the progress of the city, as it marches 
on to the fulfilment of its high destiny. 

With great respect, I am, Dear Sir, 

Your Obd't Serv't, 

J. H. PURKITT.